Video Interview: Annie Murphy’s New Animated Series, Praise Petey, Debuts Tonight on Freeform

Praise PeteyFreeform’s hotly anticipated animated series Praise Petey premieres tonight on Freeform. The new show stars Annie Murphy (Schitt’s Creek) as Petey, an “it” girl whose well-curated life comes crashing down, forcing her to take on a new challenge and learn what it truly means to be a leader. 

Prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike, Murphy chatted with journalists about the quirky new series and its hilarious premise.

“When we meet Petey,” Murphy told SciFi Vision, “she's a real New Yorker, a real city girl who thinks she has it all figured out. But unfortunately, she loses her job, her apartment burns down, she breaks up with her boyfriend, and her dead dad bestows a cult upon her. So, she has to move from New York to the south and try to figure out how to be the leader of a cult with no previous experience.”

What Murphy loves most is creator/writer/EP Anna Drezen (Saturday Night Live)’s no-holds-barred approach. “It's so uncensored and so outrageous. It's very, very funny,” she enthused, “but it's also a very smart show, and it's touching on a lot of different relevant themes. So, I think if you have a quirkier sensibility, then this show is going to be very, very, very up your alley.”

Watch SciFi Vision’s portion of the interview below and read the transcript of Murphy’s conversation it the entire panel of journalists.

Praise Petey drops its first two episodes tonight, July 21, at 10:00pm ET on Freeform. The ten-episode season will drop two episodes on consecutive Fridays with all episodes available on Hulu the next day. Murphy’s costars include Emmy and Tony award winner Christine Baranski (The Good Fight), John Cho (Star Trek), Amy Hill (Magnum, P.I.) and Kiersey Clemmons (The Flash).

QUESTION:    There's been such a fascination with cults lately, on documentaries on TV, but also comedies like The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, too. Why do you think cults in particular are having this moment right now, if you could say that? And did you dig any deeper into cults when starting to work on the show?

ANNIE MURPHY:   I had already watched a whole bunch of culty documentaries. I'm in it, I get the craze. I don't know why, what makes it timely. Like, why is it right now? I don't know the answer to that. But it's kind of an unending trough of things to choose from and make fun of, so I get why [series creator, writer and executive producer Anna Drezen] chose to make it culty - because there's a lot of good material out there.

QUESTION:    Petey feels like she could be in the vein of Alexis from Schitt's Creek, just based on what people perceive from the storyline, the story synopsis. What do you think sets her apart from a character that you're so familiar with already?

ANNIE MURPHY:    Well, they're absolutely right. There's certainly an overlap, and I got to break out my vocal fry again, which I was very excited about. But this script is so bizarre and so wildly inappropriate and hilarious, and so much of this humor would never have seen the light of day on Schitt's Creek due to network television; it makes sense. So, though there might be similarities between the two characters, this show just takes it way off-roading, and that's what makes it stand out. That's what makes it unique.

SCIFI VISION:    When I watched the first episode of the show, I thought, “Oh, this is a workplace comedy. The cult is the corporation.” And then as you watch a few more episodes and Petey settles in, things open up a bit. There's not a ton of information out there yet about the show, so what would you say the show is really about? Who is Petey, and what's going on here? Just for people who don't know yet.

ANNIE MURPHY:    Yeah, well, when we meet Petey, she's a real New Yorker, a real city girl who thinks she has it all figured out. But unfortunately, her she loses her job, her apartment burns down, she breaks up with her boyfriend, and her dead dad bestows a cult upon her. So, she has to move from New York to the South and try to figure out how to be the leader of a cult with no previous experience. It's basically just the trials and tribulations, trying and failing over and over again, surrounded by a very colorful, quirky cast of characters.

QUESTION:    And how much can you relate to her? If you can relate to her.

ANNIE MURPHY:    I think the constant pursuit of figuring herself out [is something] I can identify with. And it's great, because when we meet her, she is a deeply flawed character, which I find is the most interesting kind of character to play. And that allows her a lot of room to grow and change and fail and grow and learn.

Praise PeteyQUESTION:    I really love this tug of war that's going on with Petey. She just wants to be heard and has these good ideas, which can hopefully fix this toxic situation, but at the same time, she is still contributing to this dark collective. Are you worried that she might head down a dark path before she gets better? Is that an exciting kind of trajectory for the character to be on?

ANNIE MURPHY:  One hundred percent. I think Anna has written such a complicated character who, yes, is trying to make the lives of the people in the cult better, but is also strangely attracted to being the leader of a cult. So, it's kind of the perfect situation; she set it up beautifully. And to be sure, there will be some straying from the path with Petey as she tries to figure it all out.

QUESTION:  The dialogue is super fun and filled with humor, and I really think it's a great comedic place for you. Was it hard though, for you to keep it together, not laugh during some specific moments for Petey?

ANNIE MURPHY:  A hundred percent! It's actually the hardest time I've had thus far in my career. There's one particular episode, I don't think you guys have seen this one; I think it's later in the season, but a gas escapes into the town, and it makes everybody horny. Anna Drazen wrote me a monologue where I'm just desperately trying not to talk about sex, but it's all that's coming out of my mouth. And I genuinely didn't know if I was going to be able to do it, because it was so disgusting and filthy and outrageous and funny that it took me many a take to be able to get through it. So, I'm excited for people to see that one.

SCIFI VISION:  You're surrounded by a great supporting cast. John Cho plays the love interest; Amy Hill, I don't want to spoil what her role is, and all sorts of amazing guest stars and people in small parts. I know that most voice acting is done solo. Can you talk about how you've been able to collaborate with some of these fantastic actors, if at all?

ANNIE MURPHY:  We did record most of it kind of in peak COVID times, but it's so fortunate that we were able to do a table read for every episode. So, we'd get on Zoom, and I still have not met anybody in person, which is such a weird thing, but at least we had the opportunity to get to know each other a little bit and hear it out loud and see what the dynamics were. But the level of talent and experience that so many of the cast had, I really felt like the new kid showing up to school not knowing what to do. But I was in very good company, and they were all incredibly sweet and welcoming and hilarious.

QUESTION:  Have you ever seen yourself in a situation like that, having to move from one place to another and try to figure it out? Because she's trying to figure out what she can do better for Newtopia, and have you ever been in a situation like that?

ANNIE MURPHY:  Yeah. Her apartment burned down; my apartment burned down, so I've been in that situation. But I feel like, as an actor, I'm constantly living out of a suitcase and moving around and starting a new project, so I can definitely identify with the starting over again or starting something new and feeling scary.

QUESTION:  Annie, this is your first major role in an animated series, but it looks like you've steadily been doing more between, like Fairfax and American Dad, and you've got Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken coming out, too. Has it been a fun transition to do that kind of work? Is it a little more freeing than being on screen?

ANNIE MURPHY:  Oh, 100%.  I feel so lucky, because I wanted to do voice work for such a long time, and now I have a couple of really cool things under my belt. It's so much different from film and TV acting in the sense that you can be as big and over the top as you want to be and usually that's encouraged. And also, you can show up to work in sweatpants which is just a dream, an absolute dream.

QUESTION:  What do you think it is about Praise Petey that's going make it a fast fan-favorite series?

ANNIE MURPHY:  It's so uncensored and so outrageous. It's very, very funny, but it's also a very smart show, and it's touching on a lot of different relevant themes. So, I think if you have a quirkier sensibility, then this show is going to be very, very, very up your alley.

SCIFI VISION:  …If you've seen Freeform's other show, Single Drunk Female, this show reminds me a little bit of Single Drunk Female in the sense that it's a young woman in her 20s who fails and has to rebuild her life, but she's a stereotype of a type of young woman who's wholly self-absorbed. Everything that Petey does, she's got her own itch she needs to scratch, and I feel like that's a character that's having a moment. Is that just because I'm old, and that's how people are now? Is that a stereotype that TV is getting at? You know what I mean about this type of young woman that Petey is and that we see in media now?

ANNIE MURPHY:  Yeah, I think you're totally right. I think that is an archetype that we're seeing more and more. But what I think is very cool about Petey is Anna's kind of making a commentary on it. She picked Petey to be Petey for a reason, and it's something that she can make fun of as the show goes on. But gosh, is it fun to play a deeply self-absorbed person; it's a blast.

QUESTION:  So, let's talk about the relationship that Petey is going to have with Eliza, the best friend. She became her best friend. How much are we going to see that evolve throughout the series?

ANNIE MURPHY:  I love that relationship between those two, because Eliza is not necessarily the most willing best friend, but Petey just forces herself into not just a friendship, but an immediate best friendship, and Eliza really doesn't seem to have much say in the matter. So, it's a funny dynamic to me. And, of course, Eliza ends up warming to Petey slowly as the episodes continue, and they end up in a genuine friendship and helping each other out as the season goes on.

QUESTION:  One of my favorite things about the show is how each episode explores what it takes to run a society, or how a community can thrive, and you really break it down in a lot of interesting ways. Do you hope that the people who watch the show adopt this responsible mindset? As you said, it's a very funny show, but there is a real force of change at the core of it too that I think is really cool.

ANNIE MURPHY:  Yeah, of course I hope that. We can all be so much kinder and gentler to each other, and I'm glad that you saw that in the show. That's a good step forward. I also think that the banning of human sacrifice is always a good idea.

QUESTION:  Yeah, we got to fight that.

QUESTION:  You mentioned how wonderfully Anna crafted this character for you, but was there anything you added to Petey that wasn't there for her initially?

ANNIE MURPHY:  It was just so well done, right away. I think the thing that I added is Petey sometimes talking in an accent when she feels uncomfortable or putting on a goofy voice, but everything else is from the beautiful brain of Anna Drezen.

SCIFI VISION:  One relationship that's slightly underdeveloped, I think, in the first five that I've seen, is Petey's relationship with her father, who of course is dead. He's not really a good guy; he created this thing really not for altruistic reasons. Petey's kind of aware of it, but I don't feel like she has come to grips with it. Now this is not Succession; this is not King Lear, but are we going to see more of Petey and her father and what it means to have gotten this thing from him?

ANNIE MURPHY:  Yes, we are. Of course, we only get to see him in a series of pre-taped videos that he made to lead her on her cult leader journey, but we do see more of their relationship. And I think Petey struggles. I think there's a lot more of her father in her than she thinks, and I think that probably is what adds to the push and pull of “Do I want to abolish this cult, or do I want to lead it into the future?”

QUESTION:  I've also noticed, Annie, you've been able to dip your toe in a little more diverse genre material. Your Black Mirror episode was so good, and this show exists in a very heightened reality [wherein] she can literally have a plank of wood for her ex-boyfriend. Are you having fun doing a little more stuff outside of direct comedy and getting to mess in drama and genre stuff more?

ANNIE MURPHY:  Big time. I want to do it all. Actors are so lucky, because they get to try on a whole bunch of different lives and experiences in their one lifetime. So, the more diverse the roles [and] the more genres I can check off, the better.

QUESTION:  What's next for you? Have you been busy working on some other wonderful projects as well?

ANNIE MURPHY:  I have a couple of things. I'm trying to figure out what my fall is going to look like, so I have a couple of cool options there. But this summer, I think I just get to have a summer holiday, which is nice. I get to put my suitcase away; I'm so tired of looking at it. So, I'm going to hopefully spend some time with my folks at their cottage and just being around my friends and family before I have to go away again.

SCIFI VISION:  Quickly, I wanted to ask you a little bit more about the difference between voice acting and acting for the camera. You talked about being able to do more over the top, and it struck me, is that where your sweet spot is? Big characters? Do you ever want to do a small little period piece?

ANNIE MURPHY:  Oh, very much. I want to do a period piece where I'm gazing out to sea for my lost husband. I'd also love to play a fully evil character one of these days. I want to play a character that's very still, because I've realized I'm a natural flailer, and I've played a lot of very flail-y characters. So, if you know anyone, let me know. Put me in touch.

QUESTION:  Chelsea is a little bit evil, right? From Ruby.

ANNIE MURPHY:  Totally. And that's where I'd like to open the floodgate. I was like, "Oh, I like this." I like being pure evil. It felt too good.

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